Earlier this evening, a not-so-tiny asteroid swooped past our planet on what NASA announced as its closest-ever approach to planet Earth.
Dubbed 2019 LM1, the space rock is estimated to be up to 134 feet wide. This makes it a little over twice the size of the Chelyabinsk meteor that famously penetrated Earth’s atmosphere in 2013, exploding in the sky over Russia and wreaking havoc in the city of Chelyabinsk.
As its name suggests, asteroid 2019 LM1 was only discovered this year. First spotted last month – on May 26, to be precise – the space rock has been classified as a near-Earth object (NEO). As The Inquisitr previously reported, NEOs are celestial bodies, such as comets or asteroids, that orbit the sun on a trajectory which allows them to enter Earth’s cosmic neighborhood.
After carefully monitoring its orbital path for the past 27 days, asteroid trackers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) have determined that this particular NEO is an Apollo-type asteroid. This means that the space rock can not only occasionally approach planet Earth, but also cross its orbit.
According to NASA’s Center For Near-Earth Object Studies (CNEOS), asteroid 2019 LM1 is thought to measure anywhere between 59 feet 134.5 feet in diameter. Traveling through the void of space at nearly 19,500 mph, the object made a close pass by Earth on Saturday night. Data from JPL pinpointed the exact moment of its close flyby to 9:24 p.m. ET.
While many NEOs are known to venture quite close to Earth’s surface, sometimes even creeping in between our planet and the moon, this was not the case for asteroid 2019 LM1. During tonight’s close encounter, the space rock passed within 2.32 million miles of our home world, or about 9.73 times the distance to the moon.
However, as NASA pointed out, this was the object’s closest-ever approach to planet Earth.
The last time that asteroid 2019 LM1 paid Earth a visit was three years ago, on August 26, 2016. At the time, the space rock only managed to come within 7.78 million miles of the planet’s surface.
Before that, asteroid 2019 LM1 made a close flyby of Earth three years prior. The asteroid wandered through our corner of the solar system on September 18, 2013. Nevertheless, its journey around the sun took it considerably farther from Earth than during its subsequent flybys, as asteroid 2019 LM1 buzzed our planet from a staggering distance of 32.6 million miles.
The space rock is due to return in three years’ time. Its next flyby is expected to occur on May 24, 2022, and will bring the asteroid within 26.26 million miles of Earth.